Drive Away 2Day

1978 Lamorghini Espada s2 : Classic Cars

The 1970’s were a time of great contrasts within the auto industry. There was the oil crisis, lethal for the American muscle cars, concept cars were created with looks that were coming straight from the sci fi realm and great risks were taken with creations like Aston Martin’s Lagonda (that I love so much…and now I’ll discreetly work on a way to hint that you should check out my article about the Lagonda…). But above everything else the 70’s were a time when imagination was put to work, for better or worse and there’s true value on that.

In all this process, some of the most curious pieces of style and design that you can imagine were born, and it appeared that the sports cars manufacturers had a particularly effective mix of creative juices flowing, creating new “looks” in the fashion of what we now know as the best of the era, the straight lines, the aggressive fronts, the attention to styling and detail and the overall craziness, that was the most important bit.

One of the companies that truly embraced the 70’s spirit was our (well mine at least) beloved Lamborghini. Of course, this was the time when they came out with that whale of an automotive landmark called the Countach, but that’s not I wanna talk about. Because the Countach is truly a colossus, it casts a huge dark shadow over other very interesting stuff from the same “parent” and right now I feel like casting a bit of a light on that shadow.

Back in ’68, Lamborghini came out with something truly special, the Espada. This sui generis looking machine remained in production until 1978 and had 3 different production stages that gave it the designations S1, S2 and S3. Personally the S1 is my favorite because being the genesis of the Espada’s life, it was the proving ground for the technology and the target of the critics. And there were some harsh critics alright, as Jay Leno put it, with the Espada there’s no middle ground, you either love it or hate it.

Based on the futuristic (make that extremely futuristic) show car Marzal Lamborghini Espada S1(1967), the Espada is the result of a long process in which the Marzal insane features were watered down in order to make it more practical, better “social skills” if you will. Nevertheless the design remained controversial at best, to this day some critics shout to whoever will listen about how ugly this Lambo is; again, to me, this is just not true, pure prejudice.

Brainchild of Marcello Gandini (father of the above mentioned superstar Countach and also of the striking Diablo), the Espada is actually amazingly practical, it has 4 real seats (it’s not just a +2 kind of thing, it doesn’t crush it’s passengers to death in the back seats), it’s very comfortable, it has a big boot and because of its huge rear window it’s easy to see were the heck you’re going while in reverse, even with a ton of stuff in the back. And it’s exactly at the back of the Espada that you can find one of the most recognizable pieces of automotive design details today, rarely accredited to Lamborghini, that bit of glass below the boot lit and above the taillights; usually it’s Honda with its CRX that gets the cudos for that one, very unfair.

So it’s a fact that the look of the Espada isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I believe that given enough time, “it does grow on you” like so eloquently stated Daryl Adams from the International Lamborghini Registry website. Personally I thought it was a strange looking thing at first too, but now I believe it’s one of the most accomplished designs in the Lamborghini catalog ever, the front alone is a masterpiece; without being consensual, the Espada look certainly saved it from being relegated to a foot note in the company’s history (I remember the Urraco in this situation for instance…)

The first part of mechanically preparing the Espada was a pure and simple copy/paste process; the engine and transmission were transplanted directly to this “bull”, same as they were in previous Lamborghinis. Peformancewise, the 325 hp V12 allowed this Lambo go all the way up to 155 mph, and according to records, it was almost economical with a mpg scale very close to what some executive saloons manage to pull off today, not bad for a ’68 Italian V12 huh? Even more impressive when we remember that it had a huge body to haul around, almost 16.5 feet long by 6.5 feet wide.

Built between March of ’68 and November of ’69, theLamborghini Espada S1 S1 version had a limited production of just 186 units. The S2 GTE (December of ’69 to November of ’72) saw the Espada’s production increased to 575 (this with a few changes like a new dashboard layout and new rims). And finally the S3 (456 made from December of ’72 to December of ’78) produced with a few more style changes like a sunroof and the (tragic) loss of its gorgeous chrome bumpers in favor of ugly rubbery things (because of sales in the US market that, at the time, had tight restrictions regarding safety that messed up countless beautiful looks in the auto industry).

Nowadays the Espada its fairly accessible (when you take into account its natural bull pedigree that is); I’ve seen these sort of car sell for anything from 20 to 40, even 70.000$+, so it really depends on the condition and history of each individual car, but the S1 are really the more expensive ones.

The Espadas have a bad reputation because of their alleged mechanical issues, but that’s not justified at all; referring again to Jay Leno’s statements, the Espada is like any other classic Italian sports car, it needs to warm up before you start “punching” it because the engine oil has to be hot or else it would be one hell of a recipe for disaster. But if you keep it properly maintained and if you don’t aim to win drag races 5 seconds after you turn the key, the Espada will never bother its owner anymore than any other car.

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Sources : 1978 Lamorghini Espada s2 Photo | 1978 Lamorghini Espada s2 Article


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